Let’s talk about boundaries. Boundaries are key and necessary when going through something as traumatic as infertility can be. The thing to remember is that boundaries are about you and protecting your mental health. Nobody is entitled to more of you than you are willing or able to give.
Taking some space for yourself to process your emotions and heal is important and taking care of yourself is a priority. If this means you can’t show up for your friends and family in your normal way, then that’s okay too.
You have to be direct in what you expect and need from your loved ones, as well as honest about what you feel or don’t feel able to do. It may be awkward or uncomfortable, but believe me, you and those close to you will appreciate it. For example, after my miscarriage, when I was ready for company, I asked my friends and family to please keep conversations away from that topic. I just didn’t feel able to handle talking about it at that time. I also asked them to please limit hugs and physical contact because I was too raw for it. I needed a break from the sadness, and that’s ok. That’s what I needed for my mental health at that time.
It’s also okay to set boundaries on the questions you’re willing to answer. You are entitled to privacy and it may help to have set answers ready to go when you are asked about children or building your family, such as “We’ll be sure to share when we choose to,” or “we’ve been trying, but want to keep that part of our lives private for right now. I’m sure you can understand how difficult it is.”
You also need to set boundaries for yourself. Sometimes with others you will want to be open and at other times you want to remain private. It’s your choice. You don’t have to attend any baby showers if it is a trigger. Simply explain why you can’t attend, and your loved ones will understand.
Lastly, another boundary that we often need to set for ourselves is social media. You may be torturing yourself by logging on to Facebook or Instagram and seeing a feed full of baby announcements and round bellies and that means that it’s time to disconnect. Set limits for how much time you spend looking at your feed, and take a break and truly disconnect if you feel like it’s becoming too much of a trigger.
If you have a friend or family member facing infertility, you have to understand that they may not be purposely distancing themselves, but are trying to process and heal from infertility trauma and loss. You can show your support by checking in with a note, such as this one, recommended by my friend Chiemi Rajamahendran, aka @missconceptioncoach on Instagram. “Are you doing ok? Just reaching out to say hi and let you know I’m thinking of you. Do you feel like talking? I’m here if you do. If not, it’s ok. How can I help?”
Setting boundaries for ourselves and others is central to self-care, and putting your needs and healing at the front of the priority line is important. If someone can’t or won’t respect your boundaries, it’s time to put yourself first and create distance from that person for a while. You are the boss of your own life. Give yourself space and time to heal.